Out There

Beastie Boys
The Sounds of Science
(Grand Royal/Capitol)

For 20 bucks, you can visit beastieboys.com and make your own best-and-rest-of: Pick 40 songs from the available 150 (loads of singles and imports, though not a single one from Licensed to Ill), slap on a title (say, Three Hebrews and One DJ), and it's yours. That, or you can up and purchase this two-disc, 42-track retrospective, complete with its own share of rarities, singles, and other cracks that fell between the hits. Either way you can't lose, as long as you include "Sabotage" (the best single of the '90s, if you've got an ass), "Shadrach," "Sure Shot," "Fight For Your Right," "Intergalactic," "Hey Ladies," "Shake Your Rump." There's a reason God invented the 10-disc CD player for your car -- so you can buy shit like this and leave it there forever.

Nice to see the Boys have balls enough to include enough early dreck to satisfy the completists; lesser men would have hidden from their pasts. Either that, or the inclusion of "Beastie Boys" and "Egg Raid on Mojo" and some of the other early har-de-har-hard-core was done simply to make "Brass Monkey" and "She's On It" look avant by comparison. And you can tell the Boys didn't want "Fight For Your Right" anywhere near these discs: "We decided to include this song because it sucks," writes Adam Yauch in the 80-page booklet. "Just kidding." Seems they're at once apologetic about their fratschmuck past and still a little amused at how their yeah-right joke made them the first rappers ever to top the Billboard sales charts; turns out you actually can laugh all the way to the bank.

Somewhere deep within this compilation is a fractured history of hip-hop, a black-and-white group portrait tinted with a whole bunch of gray. After all, the Boys were at once Run-DMC contemporaries ("Slow and Low" was a cover of a song left off King of Rock) and Public Enemy labelmates. But they never pretended to be anything other than white boys in love with the sound of two turntables, a microphone, and Charlie Daniels when paired with P.E.; theirs was a sound crafted out of roach smoke and half-assed genius. That's why they've accrued quite the rep as "experimenters": because they don't condescend to the music or the audience, figuring any crowd willing to fight for its right to party will sooner or later accept a little bossa nova ("Twenty Questions," a new keeper), a little fake country ("Railroad Blues," a found track better lost), a little Kraftwerk, and a lot of Biz Markie. Docked a point for not including "She's Crafty" or "Paul Revere," but any self-respecting Beastie Boys fan has that stuff already. On vinyl.

Robert Wilonsky


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